George Walford: Looking Back to the Future

After generations of effort the Left are no closer to their long-term objectives. The free society – communism, socialism, anarchism – is as far away as it ever was.

To say this is to be told: “Yes, this may be so; but the fact, that socialism (or communism, or anarchism) has not yet been established does not prove it never will be.” I have tended to accept this reply as valid, and to continue the argument by showing that there are other reasons (as indeed there are) besides its non-appearance till now, to forego the expectation of socialism (etcetera). But I am now coming to regard this as unduly weak. If something has not happened this is evidence that it will continue not to happen. To refuse to accept that is to reject all possibility of planning for the future. Indeed, it is to reject all possibility of acting with purpose.

The people who hold that the non-appearance of socialism (or whatever) up till now is irrelevant to the question, whether we can reasonable expect its eventual appearance, are implying that the past is not a guide to the future. But their own purposeful behaviour is conducted on the assumption that the past is a guide to the future, and a reliable one at that. They show this in every word they utter, and in every step they take, for it is only their experience, their knowledge of what has happened in the past, that leads them to expect their words to be understood and their step to meet firm ground.

All purposeful behaviour is affected by experience; it is conducted on the assumption that the past is a reliable guide to the future. The evidence, provided by the whole of human history, that the establishment of socialist, communist or anarchist society is not reasonably to be expected, can be countered only by demonstrating the presence of some novel factor powerful enough to bring about the transition. It is for those who do expect the establishment of such a society to demonstrate this factor. And it will need to be, in the full sense of the word, novel, for all factors at present operating have produced a non-socialist, non-communist, non-anarchist society.

from Ideological Commentary 8, November 1980.